New Archbishop of Brussels Proposes the Abolition of Priestly Celibacy
Text: Giuseppe Nardi
(Brussels) The new Archbishop of Mechelen-Brussels and Primate of Belgium, Msgr. Jozef De Kesel, said in an interview with the Free Sunday newspaper De Zondag on 8 May that the Church could not require every priest celibacy.
The Archbishop De Kesel was asked by De Zondag whether celibacy has not “discouraged” him:
“No, not when I was 18 years old. As you opt for the seminary, it then takes many years to become a priest. But then, when the moment has come, that … is a difficult decision. ”
“I am for the Eastern Catholic model”
De Zondag: Did you have to decide between a bride and the church?
De Kesel: No. I had good friendships, but they never brought me in conflict with my choice of life. This is true for others, and I can understand that it is very difficult to let someone go. Maybe I, therefore, consciously or unconsciously avoided a relationship.
De Zondag: Should the Church adhere to this celibacy?
De Kesel: I’m not for its abolition. A celibate life is not a life without meaning. I chose it deliberately: It was a part of the life of Jesus. On the other hand I do not think that you can charge it of any priest, especially not in a moment in which sexuality plays such an important role. I am for the Eastern Catholic model, where married men can be ordained priests.
No “Catholic model”
With the “Eastern Catholic model” said De Kesel, is in reality the Orthodox model. The Orthodox Churches understand celibacy like the Catholic Church but this is not employed like the Catholic Church, for historical reasons. Bishops and monks are still called to it today, which is why only. In the diocesan clergy in contrast, there was softening. Once the ordination has been received, a wedding is no longer possible with the Orthodox. The seminarian marries before ordination, he can stay married. The result is that seminarians marry very young in order to forestall the celibacy requirement. If the wife of a priest dies, he is not allowed to marry. The somewhat complicated scheme proves, however, that the ministerial priesthood is also linked to the Orthodox inseparably with celibacy. However, you can – as in the sacrament of marriage – also recognize the Orthodox discrepancy between requirement and reality, because it is the Orthodox Church in those points which concern two sacraments, and more pertinently, failed to maintain the original apostolic teaching.
When smaller parts of the Orthodox churches returned from the 16th century to union with Rome, they were allowed during the course of the ecumenism of return to maintain certain traditions. These include the Byzantine Rite in the liturgy and the Orthodox practice of celibacy. What De Kesel falsely, but probably deliberately, sees as the “Catholic model” is called not really a “Catholic model,” but a foreign practice to the Roman tradition, which was granted only for historical reasons, clearly to formerly Orthodox communities.
The true and faithful retaining of priestly celibacy in the Latin Church since apostolic times, as well as the indissolubility of sacramental marriage, are ultimately special evidence that the Roman Catholic Church is actually the one true Church of Jesus Christ. However, this evidence itself is currently not held in very high esteem by Catholic dignitaries and sometimes, as De Kesels remarks show, recklessly called into question.
De Kesel uses a dialectic in his claim, which suggests a retention in theory, but at the same time seeks a fundamental change in practice. A dialectic as it has been frequently heard in the past two years in connection with the recognition of divorce and remarriage. Its spokesman, Cardinal Walter Kasper made his speech to the Cardinal Consistory in February, 2014.
Pope Francis has sent mixed signals on this issue, according to his nature. According to the Vaticanist Sandro Magister, these contradictory signals would nevertheless demonstrate the desire for a weakening of priestly celibacy. The request made by De Kesel would probably come closest to the papal intention.
Cardinal Danneels’ preferred candidate: Thanks to Pope Francis still Archbishop
Msgr. De Kesel was appointed by Pope Francis as the new archbishop of Mechelen-Brussels, 6 November, 2015. The archbishop of Brussels is automatically Primate of Belgium and President of the Belgian Bishops’ Conference. The Archdiocese has been a liberal stronghold since 1961. An epoch which was defined by Cardinal Leo Suenens (Archbishop of 1961-1979) and by Cardinal Godfried Danneels (Archbishop of 1979-2010) and was accompanied by an unprecedented decline of the Catholic Church. In the Belgian capital today, only 12 percent of its residents profess as Catholics. Of these, only one in ten makes his Sunday duty and visits the Holy Mass.
In 2010 Benedict XVI. tried to bring about a reversal. He did not appoint Danneels’ chosen successor the leftist De Kesel, but the Bishop of Namur, André-Joseph Leonard, instead. Leonard was then equally relentlessly opposed and boycotted just like Pope Benedict XVI. Above all this was directed at Benedict XVI’s personnel decision of 2010 which drew the the hostility which Danneels and his allies drew upon. Danneels was, since the 90s, a conspirator with the Archbishop of Milan, Cardinal Martini, in the clandestine Sankt Gallen circle, which had already opposed the election in 2005 of Benedict XVI.
In 2013 Daneels belonged to the so-called Team Bergoglio. Together with the German cardinals Lehmann and Kasper and the English Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor, he organized, this time successfully, the election of Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio. Archbishop Leonard was denied the dignity of cardinal and retired with the completion of his 75th birthday. After only five years of intermezzo, Pope Francis appointed Danneels’ still preferred candidate De Kesel as archbishop of Brussels. The Belgian Church thus remains firmly on progressive course, as stressed by the remarks of the new archbishop to abolish the celibacy priest.
De Kesels’ proposal on celibacy was also supported by the Internet platform katholisch.de of the German Bishops’ Conference.